FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. - Tropical Storm Debby may be long gone, but boaters are still dealing with the aftermath. Debby's strong currents shifted so much sand into the channel near Bowditch Point that areas previously considered clear for travel, are now less than two feet deep.
"The channel is very narrow," Big "M" Casino Operations Manager Andy Syska said. "There's a sand bar that's formed within the channel obstructing most of the channel or part of the channel, and it's making it nearly impassable."
Syska says there's no room for error. One wrong move, and boats could easily run aground. Sea Tow reports an increased number of boats running aground in this area.
"It can drop from five to six feet down to two feet within just a very short span," Kathi Bohannan, Manager of Fort Myers Princess Cruises said.
Another big concern is the safety of their passengers. "To go aground, the jarring, it's endangering the people who are on there," Bohannan said. "They are not paying to come out and be in danger."
While they haven't had problems yet, both businesses worry another storm like Debby could shut down the channel to all mariners. Even just for one day, it could cost them thousands in profits.
"We need to take action now before it's too late," Syska said.
The Coast Guard says they're on it. They've been making regular broadcasts warning boaters of the hazard. The fix could be a matter of moving the markers or dredging the channel.
"We've sent our request up to the Army Corps of Engineers who's in charge of getting the dredge," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Todd Walter said. "As far as getting a dredge, I'm not sure how long that will take before that happens."
In the meantime, they're advising boaters to proceed with caution, at slow speeds through the Bowditch Point area. If you stay to the green side of the markers, they say you'll be in safer water.